I am writing about the proposed change in the Tourist Development Ordinance that is listed on the Board of Collier County agenda for to be voted on on May 8. It calls for board members to have more “experience” in tourism, rather than the current requirement of an “interest” in tourism:
Item 11B under the County Manager’s report:
Recommendation to approve an amendment to the Tourist Development Council (Advisory Board) Ordinance No. 92-18, as amended, to more specifically conform to the statutory language in Section 125.0104(4)(e), Fla. Stat., to include the TDC recommendation to make the language more stringent with “experience”, and to authorize Staff to advertise the Ordinance and return to Board for adoption. (Jack Wert, Tourism Director).
Is there a great need to make the wording on this ordinance more restrictive? The Florida statute gives county’s broad power in creating the tourist development ordinances for good reason. In one of Florida’s largest county’s you should be looking for wide-ranging experience on any board that has a say in how to spend money that will promote something as important as tourism.
Tourism is much more than hotels, and I question the wisdom of painting yourself into a box dominated by the same people with self-serving interests who do nothing more than chant the advertising-only mantra. These funds should be used to promote tourism in Collier County, not as an advertising supplement to help the bottom line of private businesses. By requiring more tourism experience as a prerequisite to board membership, you will turn the board into a lobby group for hotels. If are reviewing the ordinance, someone might like to note that there is no place in the ordinance that says that the hotel with the highest room rates should have a permanent seat on the board.
Has the experience of all of the county and city government officials or others on this board been somehow deficient over the years to necessitate this need to change the ordinance?
Instead of more stringent wording, please keep your horizons open so that you will have more flexibility in looking to other areas of the county for representation.
Everglades City, for instance, does a fantastic job of promoting itself as an ecotourism destination. People fly in to kayak or go on fishing trips in the back waters and stay in that city’s hotels or other rentals. They want to see the Everglades and ride bikes in Shark Valley. Why don’t you consider an Everglades City hotelier?
As other parts of the county grow, you will need to promote tourism in areas such as Immokalee where the Seminole Casino is a big draw, or Ave Maria, where students and their parents come for sporting events, and real estate is sold.
Why would you want to narrow the focus of an ordinance that is supposed to be considering how funds can be used to draw the greatest number of repeat visitors? Entrepreneurs at local museums, bike shops, restaurants, and real estate firms, for example, all have experience in running businesses that cater to tourists. Would their experience fall inside of the “more stringent” wording being proposed here?
It is the job of people on the board to interpret the ordinance in order to promote tourism. I’m not sure that “tourism experience” is the best qualifier for interpretation of this ordinance. The ordinance, for example, specifically states that the funding of beach facilities is definitely a permitted expenditure. The only TDC board members who vehemently opposed the funding of the beach facility that will be built in north Naples, were the ones who supposedly have the greatest tourism experience, the hoteliers. Meanwhile, beaches all over Florida and all over Collier County have beach facilities that draw crowds. This amenity will be good for tourism, and therefore good for our local economy, and the ones who would supposedly have the greatest tourism experience, voted against it.
The ordinance that is being discussed was reviewed and approved by voters in a referendum. If there is such a great need to change this ordinance, don’t you need to bring it back to the voters?
Mary Lou Smart